The WSJ bakes a bogus trend

And ABC copies its grocery-store wedding cake story

The Wall Street Journal has noticed that some people outside midtown Manhattan buy their wedding cakes from grocery stores:

Now appearing at wedding receptions: the supermarket cake. Publix, Safeway and other grocers have started to muscle their way into the fancy-fondant realm, adding new designs and flavors to their bakeries’ repertoire to woo brides and grooms who want a custom cake.

But non-rich couples have been buying wedding cakes from grocery store bakeries for decades, which is why the numbers from this supposed trend are so low:

Wedding-cake sales rose 4% at Publix last year, while Supervalu, parent company to Albertson’s, Farm Fresh and Acme Markets, reported a 5% increase, coming off a similar increase the year before.

That’s awfully slow growth for a supposedly new phenomenon. Inflation alone was 3.2 percent last year.

Bakery Production and Marketing way back in 1991 reported that each Harris Teeter had its own wedding cake decorator, “in addition to the several decorators each department currently employs.”

Supermarket News in 1994 reported that “As satisfied customers spread the word that a good wedding cake can be obtained at the supermarket, sales are on the upswing.”

The big papers set the news agenda, so now grocery-store wedding cake bogus trend stories are on the menu at Philadelphia Wedding, Journal corporate cousin Marketwatch, and The Huffington Post repurposed the Journal’s story without adding a thing, and it “fired up” some wedding blogs.

At WTSP-TV in Tampa, anchors spent two minutes of airtime oohing and aahing over reader-submitted pictures of their grocery-store wedding cakes:

The worst derivative, though, comes from ABC News and Good Morning America, which “couldn’t resist doing our own investigation when we read in The Wall Street Journal that a growing number of couples are actually looking to supermarkets from Publix to Safeway to help cut those cake costs.”

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That investigation involved following Brianna O’Brien and fiancĂ© Matthew Hockman into a Farm Fresh grocery store in Norfolk, Virginia and talking to them about ordering a wedding cake there. You might recognize O’Brien and Hockman if you bothered to read the WSJ story: They’re the lede anecdote.

In other words, ABC couldn’t do the smallest amount of reporting for its version of the bogus trend story it read about in the newspaper, it had to re-report the story and get the Journal’s lede anecdote to pretend to re-order their cake for B-roll.

Now that’s lazy.

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Ryan Chittum is a former Wall Street Journal reporter, and deputy editor of The Audit, CJR's business section. If you see notable business journalism, give him a heads-up at Follow him on Twitter at @ryanchittum. Tags: , , , ,